Monday, February 28, 2011

Walker’s War – Walker’s Layoffs

Even the powerful handlers in Washington pulling the strings of their puppet, Scott Walker, must be recalibrating at this point.  Despite weeks of lying, anti-union propaganda in the right-wing media, national polls show that the public overwhelmingly supports collective bargaining rights for public employees.  A state poll finds that, if the election were held today, Walker would lose to Milwaukee mayor and all-round good guy Tom Barrett.  And, in a shocking development, Walker seems to have lost, at least for one day, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The Journal Sentinel, which has been kissing Walker’s ass since the day they made the unfortunate mistake of endorsing the guy in last year’s election cycle and has gotten nearly everything wrong during Walker’s War on public employees, suddenly lurches into the realm of common sense on Tuesday’s editorial page.  After weeks of calling the brave Senate Democrats who dared to deny the imperial Republicans their quorum every name in the book, the Kings of State Street now think passing the union-busting bell might not be such a great idea.  “We support the governor's aim to rein in labor costs but cannot support this bill as written.” Well, now they tell us. Do they realize the only reason this suddenly unsupportable bill isn’t yet law is because the Dems took off to where Walker’s (Storm) Troopers – led, appropriately, by Daddy Fitzgerald – couldn’t find them? 

Better late than never, I suppose, but it would also be nice if the newspaper and other opinion leaders made it clear whose fault it will be if the layoffs Walker threatens take place if the Senate Dems don’t return this week (which they won’t – they’re winning, why the hell would they?).  Leaving aside the fact that Walker’s threat is probably idle – just another lie in his campaign of lies – he will have no one but himself to blame if the layoffs materialize.  He’s had a deal in-hand for two weeks now – the public employees have agreed to what amounts for most to an 8 percent take-home pay cut in the form of pension and health insurance contributions, but insist on retaining their other bargaining rights that have nothing to do with the deficit. 

Walker’s handlers have rejected it – they didn’t buy this little twit to get half a loaf.  Besides, they don’t give a shit about the deficit – the deficit is just an excuse to drive through otherwise-impossible radical Republican wet-dreams like busting public sector unions.  That’s why Walker and his echo-chamber sycophants on talk radio and in the paper’s own pages have to lie about the impact of bargaining working conditions.  Ask them about why that kind of bargaining has to be eliminated and they stray into discussions of benefits which, the union leaders have already agreed, are off the table now and in the future.  They refuse to engage in a discussion of the other things unions bargain for to improve the workplace.  They refuse to admit that what they are really trying to do is to destroy the unions by making them useless.

Another one of the talking points they have been feeding into Walker’s head lately is that municipalities and school boards all over state have been racing to settle contracts before the draconian bill is passed.  The contracts do not include the pension and health insurance contributions in the governor’s dictate.  “See',” he says, “all they care about is the money.”  But the reason they are moving on the contracts is because both sides are used to working within the contract and don’t want to lose that positive way of doing business with each other. 

One thing (of many) that is not well known about Walker’s bill is that it is a massive state power-grab of things that have always been under local control.  Say you live in a community that might want to maintain the comfortable structure of the union contract and want to continue to bargain working conditions.  Under the bill, if municipality or school board did so choose, even on non-economic issues, they would lose all state funding.  The governor laughably talks about how the bill is drafted the way it is to give local units of government more flexibility.  Instead, it puts them in a straightjacket.  They will live in the world designed by the Koch Brothers and the right-wing ideologues in Washington who designed all this. Or else.

So, make no mistake – the insistence of Walker and the Republicans on driving through a radical right-wing agenda to end public employee unions is the only reason we are here today.  They, and they alone own whatever layoffs may come.  When Walker steps to the podium for his budget speech, Democrats should pick up where they left off when they were last on the floor of the Assembly last week, when Republicans called a quick vote in the dead of the night.  They should point to Walker and the other Republicans who have dragged this state through this Unnecessary Crisis, solely because of their petty ideological campaign, and pick up the chant:


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